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Senator fined $350,000 over finance violations

Bay Area state legislator Carole Migden admits using political funds for personal use.

March 19, 2008|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Carole Migden has agreed to pay a record $350,000 in fines for 89 violations of state campaign finance laws that include using political funds for personal benefit and failing to disclose what her political committees purchased with credit cards, according to documents released Tuesday.

The San Francisco Democrat, who is chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, also admitted raising funds for her current reelection campaign before filing the proper papers and failing to report contributions by state deadlines.

Migden, campaign treasurer Roger Sanders and campaign aide Eric Potashner committed numerous campaign reporting and related violations over a four-year period, according to a report prepared by enforcement staff of the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

"The public harm inherent in these types of violations is that the public is deprived of important information such as the sources and amounts of contributions to a campaign and the amounts expended by the campaign," the document says. "However, the severity of the violations in this case has been substantially aggravated by the clear pattern of violations of the act."

Migden's attorney, James C. Harrison, said the senator agreed to settle because "she recognizes there were many technical violations of the law, and she is willing to accept responsibility for them."

The senator's agreement to pay administrative fines, which the commission is scheduled to consider Thursday, comes as she faces a tough fight for reelection.

The violations involve three of her campaign committees.

Migden admitted that $16,000 spent by her campaigns violated the requirement that they be reasonably or directly related to a political, legislative or governmental purpose.

"Instead, these expenditures conferred a substantial personal benefit on respondents Migden and Potashner," the report said. She has since reimbursed her campaign committees for the expenditures. Harrison said Migden mistakenly used the wrong credit card for some of the purchases.

Migden also admitted failing to disclose vendor information for 433 credit card purchases totaling $228,000.

She also acknowledged receiving more than $1.19 million in contributions last year before meeting the prerequisite of filing an intention to be a candidate for reelection this year.

Migden earlier was fined $110,000 by the commission for previous violations, and last year she was sentenced to probation on a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving stemming from an incident in which she was reported swerving between lanes for miles as she drove on Interstate 80.


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